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HE GOES BEFORE ME

May 11th, 2012

 

Fear seems to sneak up on me when I least expect it.  One day all is well and the next day, I discover that an alligator of a problem has grabbed hold of my leg.  In looking back, I can always pick out its slithering path, and I scratch my head in wonder that I could have been so oblivious to that thing creeping up behind me in the shadows.  By the time that particular fear is exposed, it has already managed to get a hammerlock on my soul, and I know I am in for a battle.  I will immediately jump into the fray, and for sure I will win – no doubt about that.  The biggest challenge is in getting to the bottom and draining the swamp.  Things are never quite like they seem, and in order to close and seal that open door; I must expose and dig up the root.  Rarely is the presenting issue the source of my problem.  It all seems like so much work, and for a minute I dread having to clean up one more mess.  But when I remember the blessings that always follow a victory, I am encouraged to go for it, full speed ahead!  Recently I had an encounter with another one of those alligators.

My husband and I love to take road trips, which is a good thing since all of our family is out of town.  The two of us have always traveled well, and we enjoy each other’s company in such a sweet way.  Every winter we drive to Florida and back, and during the year we make many trips around the Midwest.  Often when our children call, they will ask where we are at now.  One grandson even asked his dad if we really had a home of our own.  So, you can imagine my concern when I began to experience anxiety from driving in heavy traffic.  It seemed to me that my husband was continuously following the car in front of us much too closely, and I was developing a huge fear of having a collision.  To make things worse, if I was working on a cross-stitching project and happened to look up as we were gaining on the car in front of us, my heart would pound and I would gasp, and that would startle my husband.  Not a good scene!  We would talk about it and he would promise to leave more space between us and the car in front of us.  And I would promise to do a better job of trusting his driving.  After a while I came to the realization that the problem was mine, not his.  Oh no, the alligator of fear had me by the leg!

So began the draining of the swamp.  As I pressed in and asked the Lord for revelation, He showed me a spiritual door I had allowed to open that gave a spirit of fear access into my soul.  Two winters ago while we were in Florida, my husband made an unwise decision to cut across a busy lane of traffic, and that move led to a small fender bender.  It was actually such a small collision that we did not even need to involve the insurance company.  However, it was the very first time I had ever experienced his being irresponsible behind the wheel, and I lost trust in his driving.  He is, and always has been, an incredibly safe and responsible driver, but in that moment he apparently lost credibility with me.  Intellectually, I knew that was extremely unfair; however, logic does not automatically trump feelings.  Now I knew where to begin. I forgave him for his error, I repented for having lost trust in him, and I commanded that spirit of fear to leave me.  I walked away feeling pretty good about having won that battle so quickly, and I set in motion a plan to be at peace while we were driving, even if I had to occasionally close my eyes.

Some weeks later I was riding in my daughter’s car, with her at the wheel.  As the traffic increased, I became aware of how close we were to the car in front of us, and once again fear took hold of me.  I renounced that spirit and decided I was going to remain at peace.  But a few minutes later fear was gripping me again as traffic continued to increase.  As I told my daughter what had been going on with me, the Lord showed me that the root of my fear went much deeper than my husband’s little wreck.  Now, it is always good news and bad news for me when I discover that I still have more work to do in a particular area.  On one hand it is “oh crap, I have more stuff to work on.”  But on the other hand it is “oh good, I am on the verge of feeling much better than I do right now!”

I asked the Lord to walk with me, reveal the deeper root of the problem, and help me get free from it.  It did not take Him very long to begin the process.  First, He reminded me of the story of Job.  When Job lost everything, he lamented and said, “For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me.”  When we fear a particular thing, we focus on it so much that we often bring it to pass.  The Lord showed me that if I did not get this fear out of my life, it would grow and grow until I would not ever feel safe in a car, and that would be the end of our road trips.  Unchecked fear could impact my life in such a way that I could become obsessed with my safety, and that could completely shut down my destiny.  When I realized how crippling this could become, I immediately thanked God for showing me truth, I bound that spirit of fear, I repented for allowing it to grow in my soul, and I declared that I would not rest until I had victory over it.

Then, on my way home from that particular road trip, which I had taken by myself, on two occasions I changed lanes on the interstate, only to look in my rear view mirror and see that I had just cut in front of another car.  I thought I had been driving responsibly, so in both instances, I wondered where that car came from.  In both instances, I was amazed that I did not cause a serious accident, and in both instances, my heart was pounding as I thanked God for watching over me and keeping me safe, even in my apparent carelessness.

Immediately the Lord downloaded this message into my spirit:  “I wanted you to see that I go before you, and I make a way for you.  I will never leave you nor forsake you.  When you chose to listen to the voice of fear, even more than losing confidence in your husband, you lost confidence in Me.  In this area you seem to have forgotten that you are in My hands and I will always make a way for you.  Remember when I picked up your car and moved it out of the way of an oncoming truck.  Remember those other times you know about when I saved you from disaster, and know there were many other times I went before you, when you did not even know you were in danger.”

That pretty much said it all.  Broken and humbled, I repented for losing trust in the One who is most worthy of my trust, and I began to reflect on some of the times God had indeed saved me from certain disaster.  You can read about my experience when God picked up my car and moved me out of the path of the truck.  That piece is called Testimony to Psalm 91 and was published on my website on November 20, 2008.

My head flooded with memories of times God had snatched me from the clutches of death and delivered me to safety.  I remembered an event where, without God’s intervention, my four young children and I would have frozen to death one bitter cold and snowy February night.  My children and I were headed to my sister’s farmstead when I realized I had turned off the main road one mile too soon.  I stopped the car and was turning around to head back to the highway when I turned too sharply and backed into the ditch.  Down we went, into a very deep and snow-filled grader ditch, and when the car stopped, we were in a vertical position, looking at the stars.  I knew we were in a precarious position, late at night on a deserted country road with no farmhouses anywhere near.  Even if a car did come down that road, they would never have seen us way down there.  My sister was expecting us to be late, and we lived four hours away, so it would have been morning before anyone began to look for us. 

I remember sitting there for a few minutes, trying to come up with a possible solution.  The kids were nervous, but I don’t think they realized the gravity of our situation.  After all, life was never dull at our house, and drama was not uncommon.  The car was still running, so I hit the gas and we moved an inch or so.  I put the car in reverse and we moved back a few inches.  Impossible as it seemed, I continued to rock the car back and forth, turning the steering wheel slightly.  We were making progress, and after a while, we actually drove out of that ditch.  Everyone cheered, and I was a hero.  Sadly, at the time, I actually believed I had accomplished some great feat.  It took years for me to realize that it was only by the grace of God that we had survived.  Looking back, I realized that I did not even think to clean out the exhaust pipe that no doubt would have been filled with snow.  I get a catch in my spirit when I think of all the lives that would have been impacted by such a tragedy, and all those grandbabies who would never have gotten to be born.  Oh God, it touches my heart to remember Your love and Your grace, and I thank You for Your covering and protection, and for continuously extending my life here.

The previous year the kids and I went to that sister’s wedding.  I dreaded the trip because my family was not too happy with how I was living my life, and I was not quite ready to hear them out.  So, a ‘friend’ sold me some pills that would help me get through the weekend.  About an hour into our trip and after taking the first pill, I was very sleepy and having troubles processing my thoughts.  Right then I spotted a hitch hiker and I picked him up – something I had never done before – and I even let him drive!  He was heading for the same area as we were, so I slid over in the seat and fell asleep, leaving this stranger in control of my car, my children and me.  Several hours later he woke me up because he had reached his destination, and much to my shock, we were less than a mile from my sister’s home.  At the time I thought it was a wonderful coincidence.  Today I know God had sent an angel to get us there safely.

A few years ago I attended an out-of-town gathering, and on my way home, somewhere I made a wrong turn and found myself heading north instead of west.  By the time I got back on track, I had lost about forty-five minutes of time.  Shortly after getting back on the right highway, I came upon a terrible multi-car accident.  Traffic was barely able to get past all the vehicles, ambulances, fire trucks and highway patrol cars.  I immediately began to pray for the victims, and as I drove by the wreckage, something came over me and I began to sob uncontrollably.  As soon as I got past all the vehicles, I pulled over, laid my head on the steering wheel, and I cried until I was completely spent.  I had never experienced anything quite like this, so I asked the Lord what it was all about.  I cried even more as I pondered His words spoken into my spirit.  He told me that He had caused me to make the wrong turn.  Had He not done so, I would have been involved in the accident, my car would have been smashed, and I would have been killed.  I thanked Him and praised His goodness, as I wondered how many other times He had spared my life.

I remember a number of years ago when a well-known prophet was invited to speak at our church.  We were relatively new to this congregation and, having been raised in a more traditional denomination, I was a bit undone when the prophet walked over and pointed his finger at me.  He told me the demons have hated me and tried to take me out many times, but God has always prevailed.  I see now how true those words were, and still are. 

Today as I write this piece, I cannot decide if I am more amazed at the goodness of God and His incredibly loving watchfulness over me, or more amazed at my denseness that I would even give a spirit of fear a platform to speak to me.  Here I am:  Holy Spirit filled, washed in the Blood of Jesus, a child of the Most High God, strengthened, equipped, anointed, and empowered to take authority over the hordes of hell.  I shake my head and declare, “Oh Father, after You have watched over me so diligently, and You have so lovingly preserved my life over and over and over again, forgive me for ever doubting Your presence, and for having given a spirit of fear even an inch of me.  I am fearless, I am a conqueror, I am an overcomer, and I am determined that every day I will launch headlong into the fullness of life.  Fear has no hold on me; it isn’t even allowed to speak to me!  I overcome by the Blood of the Lamb and the words of my testimony.

 

Matthew 10:29-31

Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin?  And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

2 Timothy 1:7

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

1 John 4:18

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.  But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

Romans 8:15

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”

Hebrews 13:5b

…For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Hebrews 13:2

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.

Job 3:25

For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me.

Revelation 12:11a

And they overcame him by the Blood of the Lamb and by the words of their testimony…

 

 

AN ALLEGORY FOR A FRIEND

March 25th, 2012

 

While walking through the forest, a lonely hunter came across a wounded bird, which he rescued and began to nurse back to health.  Lacking first aid skills, he fumbled through the process as best he could.  His splints were makeshift at best.  Frustrated with himself over his incompetence, he grumbled as he treated her wounds.  Grateful to be rescued from certain death, she silently submitted to his rough care.  Thus began their journey together.

Traveling through the forest, neither one knew how to relate to the other.  Although the hunter wearied of the burden of caring for the bird, the prospect of actually setting her free kept him continually at odds with himself.  So, as he rewrapped the bird’s wings, he would put little stones in her bandages to delay her recovery.  Although he would never admit it, he was becoming rather fond of her.  And my, how it beat being alone!  Meanwhile the bird meekly submitted, remembering that her very life had been restored, such as it was.  Her moods would swing between gratitude and hopelessness, seeing no chance of ever regaining her freedom.  She was terrified of him (after all, he was a hunter!).  Although she would never admit it, she was becoming rather fond of him.  And my, how it beat being alone!

Day after day, the hunter would place the bird in a sling he would hang around his neck.  The bird was certainly a nuisance who required much attention, so he often thought about leaving her on the forest floor to fend for herself.  But his heart was given to her so he never abandoned her.  Bound in the sling around his neck, she would be jostled around and irritated, and she often thought about hiding in the brush the next time he let her down for a rest.  But her heart was given to him so she stayed and endured.  And so, on they trudged through the forest, neither one experiencing the fullness of what life had to offer.  Together but very much alone, neither one dared to trust the other; neither one found the courage to reveal his true self.  And God cried over the emptiness in the lives of two of His beloved creations.

(As you read this story, did it pull on your heartstrings?  Did the characters remind you of anyone you know?  Did you long to be part of the solution?  If so, please lift him up in prayer.  God longs to bring a measure of hope into that person’s life, giving courage to enter into meaningful relationship.  Only then can he begin to tear down the walls around his heart, walls that were erected to provide protection from pain.  Sadly, while locking others out, he has also locked himself in.)

In 2004 I met a sister in Christ, who quickly became a precious new friend.  We began to open our hearts to one another, and as our friendship grew, I grieved over the condition of her marriage.  One night as I prayed for her, God gave me the above allegory.  She cried when I shared it with her, and confirmed that it definitely paralleled her situation.  As time passed and our relationship blossomed, I had the privilege of watching God’s hand move mightily in her life and in her marriage. 

Recently I have been led to publish the allegory, so I asked her if she would be willing to describe the turning point:  that place where the hunter and the bird turned away from fighting against one another and moved to a place of fighting together for restoration.  Here is her follow-up to the story:

“One afternoon I was sitting on the couch, praying and reading a book about praise and worship.  As I lifted my voice to praise God, I began to realize that His reality is so much bigger than mine. I know He is faithful and I know He delights in giving me the desires of my heart.  For as long as I could remember, I had been praying for the healing of my marriage.  What if my prayers had already been answered?  What if He had already healed my marriage, but I was not living in that reality?  What if I was simply not experiencing His restoration, only aware of the “pebbles” in my dressings?  I determined that I was going to step into His reality.  At that moment I had a vision of a clear pool of water, with everything around it calm and peaceful; I knew it was God’s confirmation that I was on a right track.  I shared my revelation with my husband and told him I believed our marriage was already healed and I was going to walk in that belief.  He agreed to do the same.

“That night I slept in total peace and when I awoke, everything had changed!  My heart was madly in love with my husband and I saw our marriage in an entirely different light.  I had not had a change in attitude, nor had I simply decided to think differently.  This change came from my knowing who God is.

“From that moment on, our marriage has gradually improved as we walk in God’s reality.  We still have our ups and downs, but we continue to work together.  I continue to ask God to reveal my part, and to heal those wounded places in me.  We surround ourselves with people who have solid marriages, husbands and who wives who have learned to communicate well with one another.  I am determined to walk in God’s reality; I am not that wounded bird living a hopeless existence.”

God, I praise You, and I thank You for your unconditional and continuous love for us, for Your answering of our prayers, for your healing, and especially for Your continuing watchfulness over us, Your precious children.  Show us how to walk in Your reality.

 

 

Matthew 5:3

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 

Ecclesiastes 4:9-11

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor.  For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.  But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.  Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone?

 

James 5:16b

The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

 

Mark 11:24

Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them and you will have them.

 

Luke 12:32

Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

TRIBUTE TO MY SON

December 27th, 2011

        

My son turns fifty today.  I am sitting in his recliner, sharing the day with him, thinking about the incredible blessing he has been to me over the years, and absolutely still is.  Fifty years and six months ago, I was unable to look down the road to envision how the total upheaval in my life would weave its way into such a wonderful story.

That was when a sixteen year old junior in high school visited her family doctor to be treated for a bladder infection, only to be informed that she was pregnant.  What?  I could hardly believe that report, and neither could my mother.  I was very naïve about things like sex and reproduction, although I had obviously experimented, once.  I really believed something like this could not happen if you were very careful.  Apparently I did not understand the concept of careful. 

That was the beginning of some very dark and painful days for me.  My parents were furious about my being pregnant, and they expressed their displeasure early and often.  I expect they were also experiencing some shame, being the owners of a small business in a small town where everyone would be whispering.  I was also experiencing shame, being required to quit school and miss my senior year and graduation.  In those days, you did not say, “I’m pregnant;” you said “I have to get married.”  So I got married – in a pink dress.  I might as well have been forced to wear a scarlet letter on my chest for the shame I felt over the matter.  I must admit, I was so consumed with simply surviving the whole ordeal that I did not think much about the incredibly awesome package I was carrying in my womb.

That is, not until I began to understand the meaning of what was called ‘going into labor.’  My dad had advanced me some money so I could buy my new husband an electric razor for Christmas, with the understanding that I would work off the debt.  So this particular morning, even though I had an intense back ache and all I wanted to do was curl up and cry, I headed to the bowling alley to help my dad with the cleaning.  I complained about having to drag that industrial vacuum cleaner around, my dad barked at me for being quick to take the money and slow to fulfill my end of the bargain, and I ran out the door crying.  Several hours later I called my mom because I had a terrible pain in my stomach.  She took me to the doctor and then to the hospital, and after several hour of extreme discomfort, I delivered my little bundle of joy. 

He was the sweetest, most gentle, sunny little boy – a delight to be around and a joy to have for my very own.  Who could have known that motherhood would be so rewarding, such a miraculous gift from God!  I still marvel that He entrusted this precious package into my care.  I will be forever grateful, and in looking back, I know that the painful beginning was a very small sacrifice for the reward I received in return.

Our early days were quite normal and quite good, adding three girls to the family.  My ‘favorite son’ remained a delightfully sunny child, easy to raise and easy to love.  But the days became more of a challenge as the family went through a divorce and the kids experienced life with a single mom, and later on, life with a single mom with a drinking problem.  Those were some pretty dark times and all of my kids suffered as a result of my many wrong choices.  My son did his best to work through challenges not of his own making, while he navigated through his teenage years.  I will be forever grateful that he took the lead in caring for his siblings while I was working and while I was off chasing some illusion that I never found.  Needless to say, I could tell some stories.

We all got through those times, each in our own way, and no doubt came out more seasoned, wiser, and definitely more able to follow the path God had set out for us. I would love to be able to go back and change many of the choices I made, but I would never want to change who each of us has become.  

God blessed my son with an amazing wife and two wonderful children.  Later his joy was increased when his children added very special spouses to the family, and then two perfect grandchildren.  Although his life has had many challenges along with the many rewards, I am guessing he would not want to change much of it.

Today my son is fifty years old.  He has seen a lot and done a lot, but I believe there are still a great many blessings awaiting him.  He and I have had our ups and downs, and I must admit that some of our downs were quite painful, but today our relationship is better than I would have ever asked for.  He could not be more respectful or more loving or more caring.  I could not ask for more than he gives me, other than perhaps a bigger bed in the guest room.  My son’s integrity is above reproach.  He is loving, honorable, trustworthy, extremely faithful, fun-loving, and honest; he is a son to be extremely proud of and a man to be admired.  I believe his second fifty years will be even greater than the first fifty.  I believe God has big plans for him, and I believe he will walk them out in amazing ways.

Lord, I thank you for changing my life fifty years and nine months ago.  Thank you for giving me a son; one I am extremely proud of, one I love and admire and honor on this special day.  I love you, Bob.  Happy Birthday.